Almost no one could imagine Chelsea's fall from grace in the last season. Going from title defenders to a 10th-place finish in the Premier League, the team and the players should be looking to make a huge effort to recover from their failures of the recent past.
This recovery will be lead by Italian manager Antonio Conte, who believes that with the proper mentality, enough belief, and of course hard work, the players can not only reach the levels they showed during our Premier League-winning campaign, but can become even better.
"Chelsea have players who can become top, top, top players. These players with work can still improve a lot. Because now we have players, fantastic players, who have great talent but in this moment the world doesn't think they are the same level as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or Paul Pogba."
"But in our squad there are players who, with work, can improve a lot and reach this level. I'm sure about this. It's important that the players understand they must work to show that 'Now I am a top player, but I want to become top, top, top, top and want to stay there'."
"The mentality is important. The heart is important. Patience and the will to improve is very important. And in this case it's important for the manager to take the best players and try to improve them."
-Antonio Conte; source: Mirror
First and foremost this applies to Chelsea's biggest star, Eden Hazard, though Conte also mentioned Diego Costa by name.
Hazard especially struggled for a good chunk of last season. Hit by fitness and confidence issues, he only truly found himself at the tail end of the season, ending the term on a promising note with great showings in the Premier League.
Unsurprisingly, Conte sees the utmost importance in returning Hazard to his world-class level.
"We know that when you have great players with great talent like Hazard in the team, the expectations are very high. Also, when the season before you have won the title and Hazard has been named the best player in the league. It’s important for us to recover Hazard in the best condition: technique, tactical, physical, overall and with the good mentality."
"But I spoke with him and I’m very happy. For me I’m pleased to train a fantastic player like him and also the other players. In Chelsea, with Hazard there are many players with great talent — Diego Costa, many players. I don’t want to say the names but many, many players. It’s important for me, I repeat, next season to create the right spirit in the team and with great organisation, a great physical condition we can have a good season."
-Antonio Conte; source: Mail
Conte has been working with the players for less than a week, and is thus only at the beginning of instilling the fundamentals of his style and tactical demands. Known for his hands-on approach and the tight relationships he builds with the players, Conte also demands respect from them in this process.
"My approach with the players is always right as I was a footballer and I understand their mind. I love working with my players. I try to educate them and show them respect. But I also demand the same respect back - and, if I don't have this, then you are in trouble and we have a problem."
-Antonio Conte; source: Star